Lessons, Re-Learned

For me, this is a time of imminent loss. One of my longest-standing, dearest friends is fighting for his life. Now, he is the proverbial tough old bird and if anyone can beat these particular odds it will be this guy. But for the foreseeable future, the next text or phone call could bring terrible news.

As I scrap this or that “important” plan in order to spend a few minutes clunking around his hospital room or assisting his family in some small way, I’m re-reminded of the few things that matter to me.

1) My loved ones.

2) Writing.

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3) Getting my head into the present tense so I can appreciate what is happening while it is happening. Such as walking on the bluffs by the ocean and… catching paragliders taking their turns at launch… or witnessing brilliantly graceful pelicans come in for their awkward landings, right next to harbor seals who lounge unperturbed:

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And, oh yeah,
4) My health.

When I was younger, I knew these things, too. But when I was younger, I more often lost touch with truth.

I’m so grateful I got to get old and I look forward to figuring more stuff out. While remembering the stuff I already figured out.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was “lines”.)

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Moments Now vs. Moments Later

I know I’m not alone with this dilemma: the more photographs I take, the harder it is to enjoy the moment. That camera-phone stuck to my face – that oh! good shot! scrutiny – blocks my senses.

But if I’ve got photographs, I can re-live (a weak yet satisfying imitation of) that moment. Without photographs, all I’d remember would be the beach with the pier is nice at sunset:

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By the time I uploaded my photos, I’d forgotten how the surf distorted the pier’s reflection:

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Nowadays, I’m really trying to live in the moment, so as I continued my walk, I pocketed my phone. Then unpocketed it. Many times.

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Capturing a pelican on camera marks a different kind of living in the moment:

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One of the great things about the beach is how quickly everything changes. Every moment really does last a moment. Here’s what happened to the sunset when the fog got just a bit thicker:

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One solution to photographing my moments away might be to keep going back to the beach. I don’t need photo memories of stuff I do and see all the time – do I? Hmm. My photo library draws a different conclusion:

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My cats and my granddaughter. I’m lucky enough to see both all the time. Yet the photo library keeps growing in both categories… Thank goodness for the digital photo era.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Broken.)

The Lame and the Sublime

Yellow cheers me. It’s true – and a reminder that cliches become cliches because they are true.

I approached the topic of the latest WordPress photo challenge with dismay or maybe disdain. Yellow. Lame. Does an orange cat count? Maybe I’ll sit this one out. But then I was out for a walk at sunset and this sky reminded me of how important yellow can be:

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Blue. Black. Purple. Red. At different times, each has been my favorite color. Yellow has never topped my favorite list, but when it’s in a group it always wins my attention and my heart. I decided the sunset was a sign that I should do the photo challenge and I kept my camera out until dark. It was reassuring to know the universe was helping me make life’s big decisions.

At my front window I caught a reflection of the sunset, plus holiday lights in my front room, and a distant glow of bedroom light:

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(Those power lines are reflections; they are not in my front room.)

A patio light had sunset glimpses behind its lattice fence:

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I’ve got lights outside for the holidays, and this one sucked all the sunset out of the view. Yellow is like that:

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On my front door is a wreath with dangling folk art animals. The last rays of sun turned this gator’s scales gold:

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Near the gator hangs a big cat which gleamed yellow-white in the sunset. I could never figure out what kind of big cat this was supposed to be, even before the sun bleached most of the color from its fur:

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That’s one beauty of folk art. Interpretation is loose and never literal.

From my backyard, I watched the sun finish setting over the top of my home and the mountains. That warm glow is from my kitchen:

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(The thick diagonal line across the window is a branch in the foreground.)

So, okay, WordPress knows best and this photo challenge turned out to be sublime.

For my fellow nerds, I’ve used the wonders of the internet to determine that a typical yellow has a wavelength of 570 nanometers. That’s a short wavelength. Only orange and red are shorter.

Now we know.

Shadow Worlds

Which came first, the idea or my belief in it? I’m not sure. I am deep into writing of the second novel in the FRAMES series, in which seemingly inanimate objects like books and buildings are sentient beings. And – guess what? Everywhere I look I see objects that appear to be more than objects.

Is this a new perspective? Or did I always see things this way but have no reason to think twice about it? Certainly, I’ve always been fascinated by shadows and reflections and silhouettes – their ability to reproduce while distorting, maintaining the familiar within the strange.

Case in point. Below is a staircase banister at the Egyptian Theater, a deco movie palace in Hollywood, CA. In silhouette, the banister’s reptilian underpinnings become apparent. I see a head in profile, facing right. The iris bisects an eye that narrows to a point, into an elongated snout that slopes down and to the right, out of frame…

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You see that too, right?

Right?

How about this one? The ocean has carved creatures in this eroded beach wall. You see this furry guy with the long nose, right?:

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In this post-apocalyptic sunset, the creatures line up looking frail:

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You see them, right?

This WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Silhouettes.

But It’s Not a Dry Heat

I once left southern California because of the summers. Three months of baking heat, plus smog and wildfires, plus people saying at least it’s a dry heat. I had enough and I moved to Oregon, where the summers brought morning dew, long warm days, late evening sunsets. Yes, Oregon summers are delightful, but the other three seasons are atrocious, and the sun disappears some time in October then does not return until May. Only people from Michigan and North Dakota like Oregon weather; in Oregon, they are trading up.

At some point I realized I had swapped 3 months of bad weather for 9 months of bad weather, and I returned to southern California where I belong. Nowadays, I no longer mind the long hot summers. I can even sort of tolerate the humid days, with the mantra sweat is a good thing. Southern California is usually in single digit humidity, so when we’re at, say, 70% humidity for days in a row, everyone fusses and the weather becomes the lead news story.

With high humidity come more interesting cloud formations than we usually get.

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And of course clouds can do such nice things to a sunset:

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The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Summer Lovin’.

A Vertical Tide Pool

Let’s face it, erosion is inevitable. In the pictures below, what you will see was once a sea wall, that is, a futile attempt to keep sand where we humans think it should stay. The ocean moved the sand, as it always does; and the ocean removed pieces of the wall, one chemically weathered molecule at a time. The result is a relic that charges my imagination every time I visit its beach, in Santa Barbara, California.

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This former seawall now evokes a line of creatures.

 

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The creatures have tide pools growing up their sides!

 

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I’m guessing that the tidepool growth protects the remaining wall from more erosion.

 

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Detail of a creature’s “leg”.

 

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At the feet, anemones are open for business.

 

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The dense organization of shells makes complex designs in the creature’s hide!

 

The original image.

Sunset instills its own magic on the scene.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic was “Relic”.